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Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy where she directs the “Hidden Brain Drain”—a task force of 35 global companies committed[…]

Women now enter the workforce at the same rates as men, but career pause dooms their ascendency. Watch the Founder and President of the Center for Work-Life Policy Sylvia Ann Hewlett discuss creative solutions for corporate re-entry.

Sylvia Hewlett: Let me start with a just a little bit of data.

If you take many of the professional occupations these days, you know think of the lower sector or medicine or even entry level corporate management. Somewhere between a third and half of the entering class of beginning managers and executives will be female because guess what? You know women are doing very well in tertiary education. There are about half of all law school graduates are there I think 37% of the business school graduates etc. So there’s lot of women at the beginning ranks. The problem is they stole out. We did a study at the task force which was called on-ramps and off-ramps and it was about how to deal with the non-linearity of women’s career and what we found in that study is it about 40% of highly credential women on track, ambitious women who are committed to their careers will voluntarily quit their career for short period of time.

Generally its the second child, not the first that pushes them out. Now they are not out for whole a lot of time on average just 2.2 years but it is enough to kill their careers because getting those on rocks to be a little more fluid, a little more welcoming is a huge task because right now its very hard to get back in once you leave. Because careers, you know was setup in the 50’s-60’s with just one model with the lock step, you know continuous cumulative progression. And if you plot those rules you know you can get kicked to oblivion pretty quickly. I mean we find in our data that if you take 3 years out even if you will right jump back in and very committed. You will loss 38% of your earning power permanently.

A man get [clubbed] in the same way, it’s the non-linearity. It’s the interruption, it’s the gaps in the resume that kill you are not the fact that you are 35 year old woman. So I think I mean where we came to in this research is that one way of making sure that there’s a lot of great candidates for that Vice-President position that happen to be women is a do a much better job enabling women either to continue to be attach to the labor market say their mid-30s or by mechanism of bringing them back on. You know over the last 2-3 years as a result of this work what we did are 5 or 6 new programs have been born that, deliberately reach out in unboard women who have just spend a couple of years staying involve in the world of care.

They been remarkably successful and they have done a great job in making that those slates you know richer in great female candidate because you know the fact is again in the data we find that women on average have 9 years of career experience before they take that off ramp and their performance evaluation are actually better the man they are competing with that point in time.

So you know a lot of seeming paucity of candidates has a lot to do with what happens to [IB] in the decade of one’s 30s. And what we ended up doing in the task force is recommended a better stab of giving women a second shot att ambition because this is precisely what they want.

 Recorded: 2009.